Whether purchasing a new vacuum cleaner or assessing those currently in use, custodial professionals need to ensure that carpet care equipment is commensurate with the task at hand. Fortunately, the choices are fairly straightforward: backpack or upright, and corded or cordless.

A closer look at the benefits of each option can help facility managers decide what type of vacuum will get the job done as quickly, efficiently, and as cost-effectively as possible.

Benefits Of Backpacks

When it comes to versatility and speed, a backpack vacuum has you covered, say distributors. According to Mike Fairchild, equipment sales and service manager for Acme Paper & Supply Co., Savage, Md., it’s one of the fastest methods to clean a building.

“I recommend them to customers because pound for pound, dollar for dollar, a backpack is the way to go,” he says. “If you have an office, for example, and you’re trying to go in and out of cubicles and underneath chairs, a backpack is the most versatile tool out there. They’re good for smaller, tighter areas, for speed in cleaning, and generally getting around obstacles.”

Keith Schneringer, marketing manager for Waxie Sanitary Supply in San Diego, agrees.

“A backpack is versatile, and you can clean more area faster,” he says. “You’re able to get in and out of areas more quickly, and you’re able to clean a variety of surfaces, whether they’re carpet or flooring. It also gives you a greater range of motion: Instead of moving in a grid, you’re able to turn faster and get more area cleaned.”

The experts at Right Choice Janitorial Supply, in Milwaukee, sell a lot of backpack vacuums,  particularly to K-12 schools.

“They’re excellent for cleaning classrooms because you have a lot of obstructed areas,” says Jim Traudt, vice president of sales. “At the end of the school year when they empty a classroom for stripping and waxing, you can tell the difference between a classroom that’s been vacuumed with a backpack versus a classroom that’s been dust mopped. The one that’s dust mopped has dust bunnies everywhere.”

Custodial executives also favor backpack vacuums because they have a wide range of tools for hard-to-reach areas.

“They’re very universal, from high dusting, to grates in the ceiling, to corners,” notes Fairchild. “It’s just a matter of changing a tool.”

Backpacks are also well suited for unique cleaning challenges, such as chandeliers, says Fairchild.

“In the old days, you’d put down a big drop cloth, and people would go up there with a spray bottle and spend hours trying to detail a chandelier,” he says. “Now they take a dust brush with a backpack vacuum, put the ladder up, and everything they touch with the brush agitates the dust or dirt and sucks it right up into the backpack.”

Backpacks even have curved tools to clean pipes in the ceiling.

“If you’re in a plant environment, you have a lot of pipes above your head that need to be cleaned, especially in plants where they make microchips, electronics and computers,” says Fairchild. “They need to be virtually dust-free environments.”

Backpack vacuums also transition quickly and easily from soft to hard floors.

“Again, it’s just a matter of changing a tool,” notes Fairchild. “If you had a long carpeted hallway with a break room at the end, for example, and you wanted to pop in and vacuum the break room, you just flip the tool, knock out the break room, and keep going.”

The wide range of add-on tools have made backpack vacuums more versatile, but that’s not the only advancement. Today’s backpack vacuums have also improved ergonomically, making them more comfortable for custodians to wear.

“Manufacturers are making backpacks that fit to your body more closely,” says Traudt. “Not only are they changing the style, but they’ve improved the harnessing system. One manufacturer has taken technology from a company that makes outdoor backpacks for the mountain climbing industry. So the harnessing systems are lighter, cooler and more user-friendly.”

And when it comes to daytime cleaning, custodial managers can rest assured that they won’t receive complaints from building tenants about noise pollution.

“Backpacks are 66 to 70 decibels, so they’re quiet,” says Traudt. “They also make one that has a quiet mode that goes down to 51 decibels for daytime cleaning.”

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Upright Vacuums Boost Indoor Air Quality